Chuch Mack: My memories of a Mount Harris Christmas

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Christmas is a joyous time of the year, especially for kids, and I suppose almost every grown-up has fond memories of his or her childhood Christmas.

I certainly do, although I must admit that when I was a kid, Christmas was a lot simpler.

There was no television, so we were not bombarded by advertisements from toy manufacturers. Of course, we had the Montgomery Ward Catalog to drool over, which was bad enough.

Like a lot of us older folks, I was born into a large family. There were a lot of mouths to feed and a lot of kids to clothe. Family income was low to almost non-existent.

This made for some skimpy Christmases, but my folks were good providers, so we never went hungry, and I can' t remember a Christmas without a few gifts around the tree.

What I remember most about Christmas in Mount Harris was the annual Christmas play at the Mount Harris School.

The entire school -- grades first through eighth -- participatee in the production. Every student had the opportunity to have a part in the play, and boy, did we ever put on some outstanding plays.

Every year, at the conclusion of the play, they would hand out the Christmas stockings, which were stuffed with candy and nuts.

In addition to this, we got an apple and an orange. Boy, I savored these. I might not see another orange until the next Christmas.

The socks had been bought jointly by the two coal companies and United Mine Workers of America Locals, which comprised the town of Mt. Harris.

Another fond memory is the Roving Christmas Tree. This consisted of an old flatbed Ford truck, on which was standing a fully decorated and lighted Christmas tree. This was the creation of Walt Weber.

Walt owned and operated a radio repair business in Steamboat Springs. The Roving Christmas Tree would drive around town, and most of the time there was another stocking and another apple and orange to give out to the little kids.

These, too, were furnished by the Local Unions and the coal companies. When we received our goodies from this Roving Christmas Tree, it was a double delight. Wow.

Two oranges in one year. Yes. My childhood Christmases were great. Skimpy, but great.

On Christmas Day, the table was loaded with food. Usually there was some Jell-O with "real" bananas. Wow.

This was another yearly treat for me. And of course, on Christmas morning, there was always evidence Santa had been there the night before. Santa always seemed to find his way to that little tarpaper shack that sat on the bank of Wolf Creek.

Usually, Santa would bring me something I needed, a new pair of bibbed overalls and a chambray shirt or maybe even a new pair of shoes. And always a stuffed toy, made out of a pair of Rockford Red-Heel Socks.

I was talking recently to Ed Bugay of Hayden. Ed is an old-time coal miner, now retired. Ed spent a lot of time in Mt. Harris and for a long time was financial secretary for the Mt. Harris Local of the U.M.W.A. Ed was telling me he was the one who usually had the job of ordering the goodies for the Christmas socks.

The miners paid for the goodies through a voluntary check-off, which the coal companies deducted from their paychecks.

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